Monday, January 14, 2013

#288 Joe Cowley - Atlanta Braves

Joe Cowley is seen here on his rookie card in a mesh hat in front of a blue sky background.  I don't care for cameo pics in which they don't look at the camera, but they seem to be in the majority.

Baseball Card Database
Player: An undrafted free agent, Joe Cowley spent six seasons in the minors before making the Braves big league roster in 1982.  He began the year in the rotation and received just one decision, a loss, in his first six starts.  He allowed over three earned runs in just one of those starts but also made it through the seventh inning just once.  He went down to AAA and came back in July to help out in the pen.  He made a pair of spot starts and was sent down again in August.  He finished the year with a 4.47 ERA in 52 frames.

Cowley worked as a swingman at AAA Richmond for the entire '83 season and was released by the Braves in October.  He signed a deal with the Yankees in '84 and began the year at AAA Columbus.  He was promoted in July, made one start, and then pitched in relief the next two weeks.  After logging just seven and a third innings in the past 17 days he was given a start against the Indians and shut them out on three hits.  Cowley pitched fairly well the rest of the year finishing with a 3.56 ERA with a 9-2 record, 8-0 as a starter.

Cowley began the '85 season in the back of the Yankee rotation and pitched pretty well, winning twice as many as he lost at 12-6.  He was basically a six inning pitcher with 159.2 innings pitched in 26 starts and four relief outings.  He posted a 3.95 ERA despite allowing 29 homers and walking 85 compared to 97 strikeouts. The Yankees then traded Cowley and catcher Ron Hassey to the White Sox for Britt Burns in December of '85.

The 6'5" Cowley made the ChiSox rotation as their fifth starter but because of off days pitched just once in April.  Sent down to Buffalo to stay sharp, he returned on May 23 and stayed in rotation the rest of the year.  He was struggling with a 4.82 ERA through August when he got hot to close out the season.  He allowed two runs in his first three starts of September and then no-hit the Angels.  He won the game 3-1 with the Angels scoring on a Reggie Jackson sac fly after Cowley loaded the bases in the sixth.  He lost his next two decisions and finished the '86 season 11-11 with a 3.88 ERA in 162 innings. 

The White Sox traded Cowley late in spring training in '87 to the Phillies for Gary Redus.  Inserted into the Phils rotation was Cowley bombed for 26 runs in 11.2 innings.  He went 0-4 and was sent down to the minors in May.  He continued to struggle at AAA Maine with a 7.86 ERA in 63 frames.  Cowley retired at age 29, having never won another game after his no hitter. 

Baseball Card Database
Flipside:  You wouldn't think that an undrafted pitcher who gave up nearly as many runs as innings pitched in his first two years in the minors would ever make it to the major league level.
Oddball:  Cowley's no-hitter was a little sloppy with seven walks.  However it is shocking to read the words of Angel's rookie Wally Joyner who said after the game-
"He was either two feet outside or right on the black (the corner). He did his job. He got 27 outs. But he wasn't tough at all, he wasn't. We didn't get a hit, that's all that happened."If you guys don't look up at the scoreboard, you'd think he gave up eight or nine hits. When he was around the plate, he was barely around it. I'm not even frustrated. It wasn't impressive, it wasn't. Not to put Joe Cowley down, but it wasn't impressive."
History:  This Joe Cowley shouldn't be confused with the Chicago White Sox writer of the same name who got himself into hot water over some sexist Twitter comments.  Joe Cowley the hurler was a typical fringe pitcher who had a 33-25 career W/L record with a 4.20 ERA.  He will always be remembered for his no-hitter and lack of success afterwards.  A similar nosedive happened to another White Sox hurler in 2012 when after his perfect game Phil Humber posted a 7.39 ERA afterwards.  At least Humber managed to win four games after his gem.

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